Confusingly, when arriving at Brooklyn on the northern outskirts of Sydney by train, you alight at Hawkesbury River Station. The small Sydney suburb of Brooklyn is squeezed between the Ku-ring-gai National Park and the Hawkesbury River. It looks and feels more like a village.
Living across the river from Brooklyn, I pass through it regularly. It’s going to be a challenge putting a fresh face to a suburb I know reasonably well.
The Hawkesbury River Station
The Hawkesbury River Station has an important history. A photographic display at the station is well worth reading. When the railway reached Brooklyn in 1887, it enabled faster transport of agricultural and seafood goods. Previously supplies went from Windsor by road or by boat to Sydney.
The first Hawkesbury River Bridge opened in 1889 and people travelling North no longer had to alight at Hawkesbury River Station and transfer to The General Gordon ferry to cross the broad Hawkesbury River. The bridge formed the final link in the railway line from Adelaide to Brisbane.
People walking the Great North Walk will pass through Brooklyn after walking from Cowan to Brooklyn. I’ve often seen tired but happy walkers at the Hawkesbury River Station catching the train back to Sydney having completed another stage of their journey north.
I climb the station stairs (there is no lift, although one is promised) for a perfect lookout over the Marina and the Hawkesbury River to Dangar Island. The calm water reflects a red channel marker and spur winged plovers preen in the grass on the shoreline.
Opposite the station exit, an obelisk commemorates the naming of the Hawkesbury River by Governor Phillip in 1789.
On my left is the marina and the Dangar Island ferry wharf. The Riverboat Postman (a cruise well worth doing) also leaves from here. It delivers my mail and that of water access only properties. Catherine is in the ticket office and I take a moment to say hello.
Walking to the Hawkesbury River Bridge
A narrow dirt road between the railway line and the river leads to the Hawkesbury River Bridge. The water gently laps the shore, well-used fishing boats float idly at their moorings and water craft criss-cross the river. I pass through an open gate wondering if I am trespassing.
Disappointingly, at the end of the road, a high metal paling fence and locked gate blocks my way. If the monument to the bridge mentioned in the photographic display at the station still exists, I am not going to find it.
Instead I find a site office for the foreshore stabilisation work and a perfect view of the ‘new bridge’ and the piers of the first Hawkesbury River Bridge. When the first bridge failed, a second (opened in 1946) was built alongside. A train thunders over the bridge as I turn back.
Fishing Boats and a Ferry
A fisherman tells me he hasn’t caught anything except “little, little” and gestures that he threw them back.
The view on my left is like a magnet and I walk, head turned to the activity on the water. A barge loaded with two garbage trucks carrying the weekly Dangar Island rubbish cruises back to the Parsley Bay boat ramp. In the distance, the distinctive Dangar Island Ferry carries passengers to Little Wobby. Circles of ripples appear where a jumping fish disturbed the smooth water.
Back in Brooklyn village, the bread maker from Dangar unloads large bags of flour onto a trolley. We chat and I order a loaf for tomorrow. Another passing Dangar friend comments how she loves my “working outfit”. I love how she calls what I do work. The community where I live is very special.
Gateway to the Hawkesbury
Often called the “Gateway to the Hawkesbury”, day trippers visit Brooklyn for the seafood, for fishing and boating and just to spend a day in a rather special environment. This small community has a medical centre and pharmacy, a pub and a post office. There’s a real estate agency and a motel, a grocery store and bottle shop as well as options for eat in or takeaway seafood and coffee.
The cicadas in the bush on my left as I follow Brooklyn Road away from the village, are deafening as the heat intensifies. Today is going to be very hot.
Brooklyn Road is the only way in and out of the village by car. It divides the residential part of the suburb in two. On one side, properties abut the railway line while on the other side the houses line the road with side roads extending to the waterline.
As I walk, I check out the different houses of this small community of just over 700 residents. They range from old fibro shacks to modern homes. A couple are built from sandstone and one looks like a renovated church.
Brooklyn Public School is closed for the holidays, but the public are invited to use the playground facilities until school opens again. How many schools have a pirate ship in their sandpit?
Brooklyn Park Mangrove Walk
In the oval opposite the school two flags fly on either side of the War Memorial. A board displays work by students from the school as part of the “Beasts of Brooklyn” project. Some names are familiar.
The Brooklyn Park Mangrove Walk, a short pleasant 15-minute boardwalk through the mangroves, begins here. I read that this is one of the few remaining examples of mangrove swamp and saltmarsh in the Sydney area. The trees provide welcome shade and the drone of the cicadas follows me as I continue along the boardwalk.
The walk ends at the eastern end of the oval where skateboard ramps stand silently next to the vacant tennis court. On my way back to the village centre, I explore a couple of short side streets towards the water.
Hawkesbury River Marina
The heat has intensified and I need a cool drink. At the Marina, I greet more friends enjoying a quiet coffee. Linda sits at her usual spot – a table outside her gift shop, River Dreams. We chat as I take a break, drinking a cold ginger beer.
Leaving the Marina, cockatoos squawk overhead. Pelicans preen themselves on poles in the channel and a brush turkey scratches in the bush. Then a group of jet skis shatter the peace. How I dislike those things.
In McKell Park, a series of panels describe historical events and features of the area. They make fascinating reading.
History of Brooklyn
Did you know there was a railway disaster in 1887 when six people were killed? Or that owing to the strategic importance of the Hawkesbury River Bridge, troops were stationed in Brooklyn during both world wars? And that Australia’s Constitution was crafted on a boat on the river near Brooklyn?
Two women swim laps in nearby Brooklyn Baths while a mother and child paddle in the shallows. Other children enjoy playground.
Flat Rock Point and Parsley Bay
The foreshore path curves around Flat Rock Point to Parsley Bay. I sigh. How peaceful it is here. A cicada startles me. I stop to look where he lands. The longer I look, the more cicadas I see.
Groups of fishermen try their luck at Parsley Bay. Day trippers launch their boats. Boat tenders rest in racks on the shore. Near them, the rock formations stop me in my tracks. They are incredible.
The local dragon boat team glides in to shore after a practice session. A woman sits at the water’s edge eating a sandwich. She is soaking wet having taken a cooling dip, fully clothed. It turns out that we know each other and we chat briefly before I move on.
Above me, houses perch on a huge rock overlooking the river. As I make my way up behind them a man calls out. “Aaargh. Spider”. He’s walked into a web. I know how he feels.
Upper McKell Park
Now, in the Upper section of Mckell Park, I have a clear view down the river. A group of people hover around one of the BBQs. The man behind the BBQ is Jimmy. He runs Gourmet Getaway, a tour I reviewed a couple of years ago and another I highly recommend.
At the end of the path, the Federation Walk leads to Flat Rock Point where I find the remnants of an anti-aircraft battery. Unfortunately, someone has removed the signage. A flight of sandstone stairs leads back down to the foreshore and the village.
What I love about Brooklyn
Looking back on my walk I realise what I love about Brooklyn. It’s the community, the natural environment and the river. Oh the river. You could do worse than make a day trip to Brooklyn.
And a couple of random photos
Let me Know if you see the rooster.